DUNEDIN, New Zealand (Reuters) - England’s batsmen showed the resilience they had been lacking in their first innings to battle to a draw in the first of three tests against New Zealand at University Oval on Sunday.
The tourists, who had been bundled out for 167 in their first innings, were 421 for six with a lead of 128 runs when captains Alastair Cook and Brendon McCullum agreed a result was unlikely in the remaining 15 overs available on the final day.
Ian Bell, on 26, and wicketkeeper Matt Prior on 23 were at the crease when the match ended, having snuffed out New Zealand’s slim hopes of victory in the final session.
Those hopes had been briefly roused after the tea break when nightwatchman Steven Finn was trapped in front by left arm spinner Bruce Martin for 56 and Joe Root was run out for a duck.
Root’s dismissal left England on 390 for six, a lead of 97 runs with a minimum 31 overs remaining in the day.
“I thought even up until the last couple of overs there we were a red hot crack if we could get into those bowlers with the ball still new,” McCullum told reporters.
”We did everything we possibly could to get the result but we came up against a team that was hell bent on ensuring they didn’t lose, and on a surface like that they would have had to make a few mistakes in the second innings.
“Even then we still went past the bat numerous occasions and there were many times when things could have fallen our way on a different day.”
Finn’s first test half century and highest first class score exemplified England’s doggedness in their second innings as he played the nightwatchman’s role to perfection.
Prior to his first innings knock of 20 at University Oval, his previous highest test score was 19 against Sri Lanka at Lord’s in 2011.
The tall fast bowler faced 203 balls and batted for almost five hours as he held up one end while the more established batsmen chipped away at what was remaining of New Zealand’s imposing 293-run first innings lead after McCullum had declared their first innings at 460 for nine.
“The way Steven applied himself was fantastic, I certainly didn’t know he had that in him,” Cook said, adding that Finn had been “bribed” to take the role with inducements if he reached score milestones or lasted a set number of overs.
“I don’t think he did either but it shows when you really put your mind to something and are really disciplined on a flat wicket, anyone can make themselves hard to get out.”
The tourists had resumed on 234 for one, a deficit of 59 runs, after Cook (116) had been dismissed just before stumps on Saturday.
Nick Compton was the only batsman out before lunch, trapped lbw by Wagner for 117, but he was able to head back to the pavillion safe in the knowledge that his partnership with Cook on Saturday had resurrected England’s position in the match.
The pair put on a stubborn 231-run opening stand, taking a massive chunk out of New Zealand’s first innings lead.
“It’s a case of ‘right, we got away with that one guys but we’re going to have to turn on for the next game’,” Compton told reporters.
”We put ourselves in this position, we’re well aware of that. We weren’t good enough in the first innings and New Zealand were right on it. They batted brilliantly, they bowled well.
”So it was a bit of a kick up the proverbial, if you know what I mean. It was a case of really trying to get back into it.
“We’re aware that if we play to our capabilities then we’ve got a good chance, no doubt.”
The series resumes in Wellington next week with the third test taking place in Auckland starting on March 22.
Editing by Nick Mulvenney